While Apple’s maps app came up far short with consumers, Google Maps maintains its popularity as the watermark to target, while competitors elbow for market share. Another serious, mostly unsung contend in the maps market, squarely aligned with the Windows Phone platform, is Nokia.
Nokia, with its many recent woes, has an impressive maps tool, powered in large part by its acquisition of Navteq in 2007. And while Google’s mapping cars are well-known, driving the world’s streets, Nokia’s crew is doing essentially the exact same thing.
According to The Atlantic, Nokia’s primary weapons are drivers with vehicles that are outfitted with a significant amount of mapping gear–including a half-dozen cameras shooting things like street signs, with a panoramic camera, two GPS antennae, and a laser (LIDAR) system that captures 360-degree 3D imagery–pumping data to trio of laptops in the car.
Indeed, it’s very much a boots-on-the-ground operation; a driver named Tony Cha says that he’s covered every single street in multiple U.S. cities, which is a staggering endeavor that can take months at a stretch.
Tony Cha, on the road (Image credit: The Atlantic)
For 3D maps, the car and its equipment uses the LIDAR system to create a 3D image of a given area, and then a digital representation is painted on top using the pictures captured by the other cameras, including what buildings look like, signs, and more.
The whole operation sounds like its on the scale of what Google is doing, and if you actually toy with Nokia’s maps at maps.nokia.com, you’ll find plenty to like. In fact, there’s so much to like about Nokia maps that rumors are rumbling that a big company such as Microsoft or Apple should ponder an acquisition or takeover.
Of course Microsoft already has a serious stake in the future of Nokia’s mapping technology, with the new Windows Phone 8 powered Lumia 920 and 820 coming to market in November. Nokia could be gearing up to hit Apple right where it hurts, while literally millions of unsatisfied Apple customers fumble around with damaged goods waiting for an Apple patch.